This would be a shocker for lakhs of public servants and bureaucrats across the country: Been on a foreign tour to study roads or educational practices? You owe an explanation to the public.
Any citizen can now seek personal information — quantum of leave availed, country tours or foreign tours — of any public servant under the Right to Information Act. Taking a cue from the United Kingdom (UK) Data Information Act (1998), the Central Information Commission (CIC) has given a whole new definition to personal information of public servants in the country.
In a historic case involving an officer of the Central Forensic Science Laboratories (CFSL) attached to the CBI, the CIC ruled any activity of a public servant in his official capacity, which is of direct concern to public and, therefore, to public interest, should be revealed to the public. The CIC ruling comes after a CFSL employee, Surender Kumar, sought to know the details of leaves (earned leave, casual leave, half-pay commuted leave and medical leave), tours, journey (including foreign tour) and official tours undertaken by his officer Rajinder Singh for 10 years. But Kumar’s petition was rejected, citing exemptions under Section 8(1)(j) of the Right to Information Act and stating that disclosure of this information was invasion of privacy of Singh. Kumar then petitioned the CIC.
In his ruling, CIC Wajahat Habibullah said: “The information sought by Kumar is of direct concern to public and, therefore, to public interest since it concerns the working of a public servant in his official capacity. Details of personal tours invites exemption and may be provided only to the extent of dates and destination, unless public money is involved. As the information sought is not categorised as confidential nor is a leave register a confidential document, the information sought be supplied.’’
Said a retired bureaucrat: “This is more fearful than our confidential reports.’’